Stephen Dubner — The Art of Storytelling and Facing Malcolm Gladwell in a Fist Fight

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stephen j dubner

“Storytelling has a power that goes well beyond the sum of its parts.”
– Stephen Dubner

Stephen J. Dubner (@Freakonomics) returns to the show. He is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He is best-known for writing, along with the economist Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics (2005), SuperFreakonomics (2009), and Think Like a Freak (2014), which have sold more than five million copies in 35 languages. He is the creator of the top-ranked Freakonomics Radio podcast.

His brand-new podcast, produced in collaboration with The New York Times, is Tell Me Something I Don’t Know It is equal parts game show, talk show, and brain-tease. I had a chance to experiment with this format as a “panelist” alongside Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a blast.

In this episode, we cover such diverse topics as:

  • Why cats wiggle their butts before they pounce
  • How to grow a podcast
  • If he thinks he could take Malcolm Gladwell in a fist fight
  • Economics and the President’s actual influence over the economy
  • How virtual reality might affect education
  • And much, much more

If you only have 5 minutes, I recommend listening to the three books that shaped Stephen into the person he is today [at 31:26 for the overcast link]

Please enjoy this round two with Stephen J. Dubner!

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Want to hear another podcast featuring Stephen J. Dubner? — Listen to this early episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. In this episode, we discuss the craft of brainstorming, narrative storytelling, and how to avoid wasting mental energy on meaningless nonsense (stream below or right-click here to download):


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Stephen Dubner:

Twitter | Freakonomics Radio | Tell Me Something I Don’t Know | Facebook | Freakonomics website

Show Notes

  • Why do cats wiggle their butts before they pounce? [08:48]
  • How might storytelling improve the way lessons of hard sciences and other traditionally “boring” subjects are conveyed? [09:28]
  • Top tips for editing your podcasts to make them shorter without losing too much valuable information. [19:33]
  • Suggestions for growing the reach of a podcast. [23:15]
  • The origin of Stephen’s last name. [26:07]
  • What’s happening with the golf book Stephen and Steven were working on? [28:57]
  • What are the three books that had the biggest impact on Stephen? [31:26]
  • Stephen talks about why he chose a career in writing over one in sports or music (his other two passions). [33:07]
  • How did Stephen meet James Altucher and what makes James a good interviewer? [40:50]
  • Does Stephen think he could take Malcolm Gladwell in a fist fight? [42:24]
  • How will South Korea’s entry into the cryptocurrency game affect the dynamic of the market? [43:17]
  • What actual influence does a US president have on the economy? [46:13]
  • How will technology such as VR (virtual reality) affect education? [51:48]
  • What’s the best way to teach kids how to develop critical thinking and ask unusual questions? [56:55]
  • What Stephen learned from stamp collecting. [1:01:32]

People Mentioned

Posted on: November 9, 2016.

Please check out Tools of Titans, my new book, which shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. It was distilled from more than 10,000 pages of notes, and everything has been vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion. The tips and tricks in Tools of Titans changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for sample chapters, full details, and a Foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger!

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8 comments on “Stephen Dubner — The Art of Storytelling and Facing Malcolm Gladwell in a Fist Fight

  1. Stephen Dubner has a lot of interesting things to say but high pitch voices are neither soothing nor attractive. Listening to a podcast is a multi-sensorial experience that goes beyond great content and people’s voices matter.
    Thank you for having a calming low pitch voice Tim. You are not a perfect podcaster but you have redeeming qualities. I’m glad I refrained from listening to CBCnews live instead of the podcast : Stephan’s ideas about education were worth it and I don’t like listening to the news.

    Like

  2. Un mar de fuegos. Eduardo Galeano
    “Un hombre del pueblo de Neguá, en la costa de Colombia, pudo subir al alto cielo.
    A la vuelta contó. Dijo que había contemplado desde arriba, la vida humana.
    Y dijo que somos un mar de fueguitos.
    -El mundo es eso -reveló- un montón de gente, un mar de fueguitos.
    Cada persona brilla con luz propia entre todas las demás.
    No hay dos fuegos iguales. Hay fuegos grandes y fuegos chicos y fuegos de todos los colores. Hay gente de fuego sereno, que ni se entera del viento, y gente de fuego loco que llena el aire de chispas. Algunos fuegos, fuegos bobos, no alumbran ni queman; pero otros arden la vida con tanta pasión que no se puede mirarlos sin parpadear, y quien se acerca se enciende”.

    You are a fire.

    Like

  3. The fundamental problem with storytelling science is that truth should never get in the way of a good story, whereas the opposite is true of good science.

    Let a quote from Steven Pinker – regarding the Freak ‘theory’ of crime reduction – explain

    “Any hypothesis that comes out of left field to explain a massive social trend with a single overlooked event will almost certainly turn out to be wrong, even if it has some data supporting it at the time.”

    Much of what Gladwell, Dubner and Co. promote is not science, and is unfortunately labelled as such. With that being said, they tell damn good stories, and I read them religiously!

    Like

  4. Stamp collecting is a great hobby for young people. My dad who was the VP of BP Oil NA said he learned more from his stamps and that knowledge helped him in his job more than anything. It is all encompassing, politlcs,art ect.

    Like

  5. Tim, I have been a listener for a while and now I am in school again. I find myself actively sending and recommending your podcasts to classmates, teachers and friends. It’s been a whirlwind adventure given that I am an adoptive son of San Francisco just as you are. I am preaching your message daily, and trying to deconstruct a problem in sports management. I would really appreciate a signal for a better way to contact you, to ask you some questions as I think it would be fruitful for both of us. I am just asking for a short dialogue, nothing that will take up brain calories.

    As to this podcast, Dubner really opened my eyes to how to got his feet wet in New York, just after being a musician. And an athlete. I can relate. I will find myself reading his recommended reading and surely become a better follower.

    As Maija says, “Stephan’s ideas about education were worth it”. Truly fun way to cook my steak and eggs. Thanks Tim.

    Hope to hear back from you soon!

    Liked by 1 person